Mastering the Mechanics: Roll for Initiative

Initiative is a mechanic that you can customize as much as you want, even more so than with other parts of the 5th Edition ruleset. But if you want to learn how initiative is designed to work, whether for organized play or streaming, to have an authoritative rule for your own home game, or to understand the nuances of game design, this article is for you. Let’s examine the “rules as written” regarding initiative: “Initiative determines the...

Mastering the Mechanics: Bonus Actions

Bonus actions are easily one of the most confusing parts of a combat turn in 5th Edition. In fact, designer Mike Mearls dislikes bonus actions and has declared that they are “fairly hacky” and that he prefers to run games without them. So why do bonus actions exist, and how can we understand them? To answer the first question, let’s take a look at the genealogy of bonus actions. In the 3rd Edition era, the concept of swift actions was not part...

Mastering the Mechanics: Features that Decrease Damage

I recently played in an Adventurer’s League game (at D&D Live 2019) where the GM accidentally gave our war machine damage reduction 20 instead of a damage threshold of 20. This is an easy mistake to make, especially for those used to older editions, but it made a big difference in the longevity of our war machine; the vehicle took much, much less damage as we were hit by lightning guns and wrecking balls and sonic blasts from other...


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